Pine savanna plant community patterns after fifteen years of biennial fires in different seasons

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Jennifer Fill

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Fire regimes that deviate from inferred historical norms are a management concern in biodiverse, fire-prone regions.  Plant communities are considered to have been historically filtered by a specific fire regime, generating a community of species with life history traits linked to that regime.  If the filter (i.e., fire regime) is changed, specialized or endemic species would presumably be lost, and/or species that are not harmed by this alternate fire regime would become more frequent. Our objective was to test this assumption in southeastern USA pine savannas, a biodiversity hotspot of North America. We compared groundcover plant community composition in wet-mesic and dry pine savannas in north Florida before and after fifteen years of biennial prescribed fires in different seasons. We classified fire seasonality as: (1) phenological (occurring in the dormant or growing season), and (2) wet/dry (occurring during the early dry, mid-dry, late dry, or wet season).  Based on species frequencies, fire season did not change community composition in dry or wet-mesic pine savannas, regardless of season classification. Species composition only changed significantly over the 15 years in the dry pine savanna. Our results suggest a degree of resilience in these communities to different fire seasons (at high fire frequency) over at least two decades.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Society for Ecological Restoration